(a) A writer friend of a writer friend has just begun blogging, and the URL for her blog is called Can Kim write? (The capitals and question mark are mine; I’m hoping it’s a rhetorical question...)
(b) Another writer, Krissy Kneen, who is well known and accomplished, in a recent blog post said she would be hiding under the bed if anyone wanted her, because she has a new book coming out. (Steeplechase.)
(c) I, myself, have recently tenderly placed (read emailed) my completed manuscript into the hands of an agent. I’m not under the bed; I’m all over the place. I’ve taken to walking around the city checking out tall buildings. I’m not sleeping at night. And I don’t know whether to burst into sudden hysterical laughter or begin quietly weeping. Laughter because the agent actually requested the whole manuscript; weeping because, well, you can work that out. I don’t want to say the word. The R word.
Do you see a pattern here? Why is it that when it comes to our work we writers are so insecure and wimpy?
The obvious reason is that we lay ourselves wide open to criticism. And here try to imagine us lying down if you will - it helps to form the mental picture - defenceless and naked on a slab of concrete surrounded by readers pointing fingers and sniggering. We lay ourselves wide open to criticism and the R word.
But another reason we’re sensitive and lacking in confidence is because readers can be a brutal bunch and I've been shocked to discover just how brutal. Last week I was reading book reviews on the web when I found a particularly nasty review. And then I found a number of other reviewers had joined in to comment on this review, a regular let’s-see-how-many-vitriolic-things-we-can-say-fest. I’ve gone back this morning to check and found that some of the nastier reviews have, thankfully, been deleted by management.
My first observation here is that the author in question is no slouch; she’s won prizes for her writing. My second is what happened to manners, politeness and objectivity? Sure you don’t have to like a book but if you have criticisms try to keep them civil and professional. We’re all human beings, sensitive, caring and lovely (most of the time) people, and some of us are not more equal than others.
Readers tend to forget that any writing takes courage, dedication and sweat. Books take a long time to write, years sometimes. They’re difficult and inflexible. And while we’re writing them we’re constantly seeking reassurance. (Can Kim write? Yes, she can. Of course she can!) And proof of our self-worth. And hugs.
Dear reader, go gently on us.
(And if I don’t reply to any comments you leave here, it’s because I’m otherwise occupied, sussing out tall buildings.)